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With Fire Out, Chevron Hopes to Salvage Damaged PA Wells for Future Production

A fire that burned for days at two Chevron Appalachia LLC shale gas wells in southwest Pennsylvania stopped on Saturday and specialists from Houston-based Wild Well Control are trying to determine if they can be salvaged for future production operations, a state official said.

Scott Perry, deputy secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) Office of Oil and Gas Management, told NGI's Shale Daily that a fire at the Lanco 6H in Green County’s Dunkard Township -- south of Pittsburgh -- had burned out on its own.

About 50 first responders, well control specialists and other workers were busy Tuesday implementing Wild Well's control plan to get additional water to the site, cut off the flow of gas from the wells and assess their structural integrity.

An explosion on Feb. 11 ignited a fire at the Lanco 7H, which stopped burning late last week and left the Lanco 6H to burn until 3 p.m. on Saturday. A third well on the pad did not catch fire, but was damaged in the blaze (see Shale Daily, Feb. 14; Feb. 13; Feb. 12; Feb. 11).

The accident injured one worker and left another from the oilfield services company Cameron International unaccounted for and presumed dead. A northwestern Pennsylvania newspaper identified that worker as Ian McKee, 27, of Morgantown, West Virginia. Neither the Pennsylvania State Police nor Chevron have confirmed the worker's identity as an investigation into the cause of the fire continues.

According to published media reports, officials at a Morgantown press conference on Monday said efforts were ongoing to locate McKee, and his family and friends reportedly held a candlelight vigil on Thursday.

Perry said he couldn't confirm the worker’s identity and added that "no one has been able to identify his location."

The DEP has authorized thousands of gallons of water to be transported to the site from the Monongahela River and Wild Well has hooked up a pipeline to nearby Dunkard Creek for additional water in the event of another fire. Efforts to remove equipment and debris from the well pad are ongoing, Perry said, and the Lanco 6H continues to blow natural gas periodically.

Wild Well will soon attach a pipe to divert that gas from its exit point on the well head so that it can be cut off and capped. Perry said both wells should be completely under control by Saturday as long as access roads remain suitable for transporting equipment and the weather cooperates.

He said two of the well heads on site will need to be replaced for any future production; a plan the DEP will ultimately have to approve. It also remains unclear how much the incident has cost Chevron, where officials were unavailable for comment on Tuesday.

"I can't even begin to speculate on the amount of money they have spent responding to this thing," Perry said. "It's been a worldwide effort on the behalf of Chevron. They've brought in specialists from around the world who have dealt with this sort of thing before to get the fire here in Pennsylvania taken care of."

Meanwhile, officials in Allegheny County who approved Consol Energy Inc.'s plan to drill 45 Marcellus Shale wells at the Pittsburgh International Airport (see Shale Daily, Feb. 21, 2013), publicly shared concerns about the fire and how a similar incident could affect operations there.

Kate O'Donovan, a spokeswoman for Consol, said the company has been in close collaboration with federal, state and local authorities since it was selected to undertake the project.

"The product of this close collaboration between the key parties, which will continue throughout the life of the project, is the ongoing development of a comprehensive plan that defines specific emergency situation tactical protocols," she said in an email.

Consol was not involved in the Dunkard well fire, but it appears scrutiny on the industry's operations in the state has increased since the  incident.

Allegheny County officials also shared concerns about plans to drill near county parks. Ed Mann, the state fire commissioner, said he had voiced questions in recent days from lawmakers about how prepared first responders are to deal with emergencies at shale gas sites.

Mann said several training programs have been in place for years to better prepare first responders. His office also receives funding for training and equipment through the state's impact fee and the oil and gas industry.

"We never got involved with any of this training under the impression that any firefighter in Pennsylvania would be able to deal with a fire the size of the one we witnessed in Greene County," Mann said. "It's just not an industry standard. We look at what we can deal with and what needs to be left to the experts."

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